Spirit & Truth # 265
“Look, and Live!”
By Greg Smith
Last week we celebrated one of my favorite holidays, St. Patrick’s Day. Though I’m not a fan of green beer, I like a good pinch as well as the next guy. But what I like most about Patrick is his sense of mission. The young Welshman was enslaved by the Irish, then escaped from his captors to return home. After receiving his theological education, he followed God’s call to evangelize the very people who had enslaved him. That takes some dedication. In addition to using the Shamrock to explain the nature of the Trinity, Patrick is credited with having cast the snakes out of Ireland. In fact, there likely were never snakes in Ireland; Patrick, however, did drive the Druids out of Ireland, and put an end to the human sacrifice they practiced.
In Numbers 21:4-9, Moses exercises a similar power over snakes. The people have been grumbling against God because they’re bored with the manna He has been providing them to eat in the wilderness. In righteous judgment, God sends poisonous snakes to bite the people, and some of them die. The people ask Moses to pray to God for them, and God directs Moses to do something rather strange, that will bring healing to the people. Moses makes a metal snake and lifts it high on a pole, and everyone who looks at the snake lives. This seems pretty strange to the modern reader, but God was using this event in Hebrew history to foreshadow a far more momentous thing—a greater healing that was needed not just by the Israelites alone, but by all humanity.
As the serpent in Eden’s tree came to represent sin, so the serpent on the pole represented not just snakebites but Israel’s sin in grumbling against God. In being forced to look to the metal snake, the people were made to confront their own sin. There can be no forgiveness, no restoration for the sinful person, until he comes face to face with his own rebellion and repents. The season of Lent is a time of asking God to reveal your sin, and to bring healing to your soul. I hope you’ll join me in taking a hard look at those poisonous things that can kill the soul.
In John 3:14-15 (NRSV), Jesus says, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” That metal snake was a foreshadowing, a prototype, of Jesus. The snake represented the people’s sin, but Jesus went one step further. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NRSV) says, “For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus didn’t simply represent our sin when He was lifted up like that snake in the wilderness. On the cross, He became sin for us, so that with His destruction, our sin was destroyed. All who look to Him, to receive His gift of eternal life, will live.
Now you have a choice—to receive Him, or not. Jesus came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). He was destroyed so that you might live. Through faith, God gives you the strength to be like Patrick, and drive the snaky sins from your life. I pray that through God’s power, you’ll evict those sins today.